Cats are not like dogs that poop in a box.
September 15, 2016 3:13 PM   Subscribe

We're first time cat owners. Iris is a youngish adult kitty we were told was someone else's pet before we adopted her. I am near the end of my rope with her scratching behaviors.

I know cats need to scratch. She has no interest in either of the things we bought her to scratch. Instead, she scratches our furniture. Things we have tried:

-covering the favorite areas in duct tape and aluminium foil; she finds new favorite areas
-making a loud noise ("HEY" or "NO") when we see her scratching; she stops, usually, but it doesn't seem to be a deterrent in the future
-spraying our furniture in "no-scratch spray"; she couldn't care less
-sprinkling cat nip or valerian root (tea) on the things she's allowed to scratch; no reaction to either
-physically picking her up and moving her to her scratch areas; she bites and scratches me as I'm doing this, doesn't touch the thing I move her to, and then retaliates later by biting my ankle as I walk by or stalking and biting me
-playing on and around her scratch items, giving treats on the items, scratching them ourselves
-placed her scratch items near our furniture, near where we hang out, near where she naps, etc.
-altered her scratch post so that it more resembles our furniture by covering it in cotton batting and upholstery fabric
-we've purchased those silly nail covers, but haven't put them on her yet; I'm more interested in changing her behavior than in a temporary fix
-I've looked into the motion sensors that spray a deterrent, but our furniture layout would make this really hard to use

Perhaps she just isn't keen on the things we've gotten for her so far, but I don't know how she would determine this, as I've never seen her put her claws in either one ever. I would be very happy to spend $$$ on someone she is happy to scratch, but would be very unhappy to spend it on something she won't even look at. I would be willing to cover all soft surfaces in foil or duct tape if it were a temporary solution, but it feels like we're getting no closer to her scratching an approved surface.

Looking for perspective, recommendations, or advice. Not really looking for scratch post recommendations, unless they're <$10 or accompanied by advice on how to get her to scratch it.

Additional advice appreciated on getting over the tremendous resentment, anger, and frustration I feel towards the cat and at this situation. I'm at the point where I very much want to give her back.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta to Pets & Animals (57 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What did you buy her to scratch that she is rejecting and what is your furniture that she is scratching made of? These two pieces of information may help people make recommendations.
posted by oneear at 3:17 PM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I wonder if she was an outdoor cat and showing frustration to now being an inside cat. Can she be an inside/outside cat?
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:19 PM on September 15, 2016 [8 favorites]

You need to get her to chill. Can you buy some feliway plugins?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 3:23 PM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, definitely let us know what you've bought.

Our cats -- which we got in 2009 -- leave all the fancy stuff alone, which is GREAT.

I think a big part of that is luck, but another part is that when we adopted them, we bought samples of all the possible scratch surfaces at the pet store, and let them find what the liked.

Turns out, they have different preferences.

The smaller one really only wants to scratch the sisal-rope wrapped post on their very minimal kitty-condo. It's very durable; she hasn't used it up yet.

The bigger one only wants to use the cardboard things like this. We go through several a year, but they're cheap. She really goes bananas when there's a new one, too, which is kind of awesome.
posted by uberchet at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2016

I had to find the perfect scratchy thingy to get my cat to stop scratching the furniture. He rejected all vertical installations despite his preference for my couch and box spring, so I tried one of those cardboard scratch mats uberchet links. He loved that and I treated him every time I caught him using it. Eventually the scratching of unapproved objects completely subsided.
posted by xyzzy at 3:28 PM on September 15, 2016

Our cats responded to positive reinforcement: offers of treats and praise when they scratched where we wanted them to. And now that's where they scratch.

Kinda like dogs. and other animals. and me.
posted by GPF at 3:45 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My cat needs the scratching post to be strategically placed. Can't just be anywhere. Has to be exactly right beside the preferred scratching spot. If I put the post right beside where he likes to scratch on the couch, he chooses the post. Two feet over and he chooses the couch. Are you putting your scratching elements in the right places?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:47 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most scratchers are horizontal, whereas my one cat loves to stretch vertically. Furniture beats scratching posts, because they won't move at all. Occasionally he tries to use the back of a dining chair, and he'll almost tip over the chair.

I've wanted to get a wall mounted scratching post. But I'd need to test sisal vs rope vs cardboard. And I'm lazy and the couches are about as scratched as they're going to be.
posted by politikitty at 3:48 PM on September 15, 2016

I know it's not easily possible for every cat, but my cat is only super scratchy when his claws are long and untrimmed. I trim them whenever he starts getting scratchy again, give him a treat, and he stops scratching stuff because he doesn't feel the 'need' to. It seems like he'll still use his cardboard scratchy couch thing though.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:49 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know they are silly as hell but those nail covers were an absolute godsend. They stay on for weeks, too. I used the brand Soft Paws.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

What about getting a few floor scratchers? Once I put these around, my cat stopped scratching furniture completely.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:58 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

In addition to the suggestions above: do you play with her vigorously? I thought my kitty might be naughty until I increased our interactive playtime from half an hour to an hour every day (she loves the Cat Dancer which is so affordable.) She is still a young zesty cat but she is much calmer after she gets all her zest out. And she doesn't bite my couch anymore.

She might be stressed at her new home with her stressed out humans, and playing really seems to help.
posted by kapers at 4:13 PM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think it's your scratching post.

Our cat looooves sisal scratching posts much more than any of the ones we bought him that more closely resemble upholstery fabric. Also, if you're really getting a $10 post, it might just be too small. Part of what your cat enjoys may be stretching while scratching and so you need to give her a really big, weighty post to put her weight against. We got our cat this one on the recommendation of 3 other friends whose cats also loved it.

Rather than thinking about getting her something to scratch that's like furniture, get her something she prefers to claw more than furniture.
posted by homesickness at 4:14 PM on September 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also, I hate to say it but I don't know if $10 is realistic. If you're at the point where you want to surrender her, maybe you can invest in a cat tree with sisal wrapped posts before you give up? Cats like to have their own spaces and if she climbs and naps on her tree she'll probably wind up stretching and scratching there too since it's her special spot.
posted by kapers at 4:19 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

The great thing about buying toys/scratch pads/beds that your cat(s) won't use is that you can then donate those items to the local animal shelter.

You could try spraying bitter orange on the furniture:

Also, I'll nth the suggestion to get multiple styles - I have one cat who prefers a curved surface: Chaise Lounger. He likes to stand on the lounger and wrap his paws around the "arm". But then... he's weird.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 4:23 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah, sorry, I meant to include that information. The three pieces of furniture she loves are a leather chair, and a sofa and ottoman each made of a bumpy, woven fabric. We've purchased her this scratch post (which I've since covered the post of in cotton batting and upholstery fabric) and this scratcher.

She cannot be an inside/outside cat because we live in a third floor apartment, we live in a major city, our humane society adopted her to us based on the understanding that we would keep her indoors, and we don't want an animal in our home that has trolled around outside.

I did trim her nails last week. She gets a lot of play time.

I would love to be giving her positive renforcement (and I do of the form of luring her to the scratch pad and giving her a treat) but I have never ever ever seen her scratch anything but our furniture.

As far as the $10 comment -- I would be willing to spend a lot of money for the right thing, but I can't know what the right thing is until she likes it.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2016

I think that catnip is a good draw (usually). You mentioned that you've sprinkled it on. Try rubbing it in vigorously to activate the oils in the nip.

Also, you may need to try a different brand of nip as well as some are stronger/fresher than others.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 4:32 PM on September 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

The UK version of this scratcher has worked well both horizontally and leaning against a wall. We have also had success with a sturdy and heavy sisal covered post. Cats like to stretch up as they scratch but they also want something substantial that isn't going to move around on slippy hard surfaces, which we have.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a couple cats, one of whom is picky about where she claws. We thought it was a texture thing since she would only claw the couch and ignore all scratching posts, but after some experimentation: she actually likes putting her full weight into scratching, and the couch is the only thing solid enough. We solved this problem by sliding a cheap scratching post under one of the couch feet, nearest the spot she clawed the most. The couch holds down the scratching post so she can really go at it.

She still claws the couch sometimes (10% of the time?), probably out of habit since it took a few years of trying other techniques to get her to quit. If the couch weren't already ripped to shit I would put a scratching post under all 4 corners.
posted by smokysunday at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a last ditch effort you could try closing her up in one room like a bathroom with just the scratchers, food, and litter until she gets in the habit of using those things to scratch. Not for an inhumane amount of time but cats can be closed up in small rooms for awhile for their own good like when you're moving or introducing a new cat.
posted by bleep at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2016

I had luck duct taping flat weights to my scratching posts so they seem substantial and won't move when scratched on. Placing them where she likes to scratch, playing hard, and keeping nails very trimmed.
posted by stormygrey at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2016

Reading these comments with interest, thanks guys.

Let's say I buy her a substantial, highly recommended scratch post. How do I convince her to start using it?
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:40 PM on September 15, 2016

You can also be more vigorous in deterring her when you catch her in the act. Clap, yell, spray with a water bottle, shake a noisemaker, etc.

Nthing the suggestion to try a different brand of catnip and to rub it around if you haven't yet. Some cats just don't care for it though.
posted by purple_bird at 4:47 PM on September 15, 2016

I know you said no scratch posts but I'm gonna suggest switching up your scratch post all the same. My little firecracker of a kitty is queen of scratching appropriately and I think that the fact that she has a 5 foot tall cat condo/tower/scratching post is what does it. She can streeeeetch and climb and generally do cat stuff and my furniture and clothes remain in pretty good shape.

I think the condo/tower/scratcher is what does it because sometimes kitty lives with my partner, who *doesn't* have a giant cat tower, and kitty will sharpen her claws on the furniture there rather than on the much smaller scratching post. She's no angel, but she behaves well when she has options.
posted by bibliotropic at 4:48 PM on September 15, 2016

I'm going to nth Feliway. Is she's new to your home she very likely stressed out, and any thing you do will be easier if she's not. I'd start with that. Part of scratching is about leaving scent markers behind, and Feliway makes it smell "like them" - it's synthetic cat pheromones. No scent to people. If your apartment smells like her, she might be easier to redirect.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Nthing trimming claws. That seems to have been the other thing that inspired her to attempt to dismantle the furniture at my partner's place: uncomfortably long nails. Trimming them stopped it very quickly.
posted by bibliotropic at 4:54 PM on September 15, 2016

And you know what? Don't feel bad if the SoftPaws turn out to be the right answer for your kitty. Silly maybe, but if it's that or giving her up? No contest.
posted by fiercecupcake at 4:54 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have not had to persuade or encourage our cats to use the new equipment; if they like it they just wade in. However a catnip spray might help.
Also agreeing with Feliway suggestions.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:57 PM on September 15, 2016

It looks like the scratching post you have is relatively lightweight. Can you figure out a way to weight it (maybe up against a wall) so that your kitty can go to town without it moving? You could also try lying it down and seeing if she prefers it that way.

I have two cats and one mostly scratches vertical surfaces, while the other needs both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces to be happy. We recently moved and she started scratching our couch (while standing on top of it). I realized that she didn't have any horizontal surfaces to scratch, bought one, and the couch-scrating has significantly dimished. Both of the cats loooove sisal, enjoy bumpy fabric, and aren't particularly interested in scratching cardboard or smooth fabric. Your cat may vary.

I totally understand not wanting to spend a bunch of $$$ on scratching toys your cat won't use, but I think that trying things out is the best way to figure out what she likes. If spending the money is feasible for you and you are dedicated to keeping the cat and figuring out a solution, I think it would be worth it in the long run.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:58 PM on September 15, 2016

Have you tried spraying her with a water bottle when she scratches inappropriate things?
posted by Violet Hour at 5:35 PM on September 15, 2016

To convince my cat to try the scratch box I started by playing with him and treating him near the desired scratching device. The instant he scratched it I gave him what dog trainers call a "jackpot" -- a reasonably large quantity of a high value treat that he enjoyed. I also made it literally impossible for him to scratch the other objects in the house--he was locked out of my bedroom and I covered the entire back and sides of my couch with clear double sided tape that was designed to deter cats. This was to try behavior extinction--basically, by not having to shout at or interrupt the cat multiple times a day, he was receiving zero feedback for behavior I didn't like, which is much less reinforcing than inconsistent punishment. Any attention, even negative attention, can be rewarding to cats.

Every time I caught him on the scratcher or scratching it I gave him treats. Very quickly he came to prefer his scratchers and I started to dismantle the anti-scratching technology I'd implemented. There was a slight hiccup when I let his scratchers get too worn down and he went after the couch again--I quickly replaced his scratchers and covered just the spot he'd gone after with the tape to fix my mistake.

I will note that my cat hates the single-wide scratchers because they're too unstable and has rejected certain wavy scratchers. Maybe try a completely flat one.
posted by xyzzy at 5:38 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did everything you've listed for my kitties when they were in the "scratching my furniture" phase. They eventually did exclusively scratch the scratching posts, but it was a ridiculous effort on my part of a bit of everything you did, especially covering my furniture with tape and eventually draping sheets over them while also loudly saying "no" and picking them up and placing them on either the flat scratching cardboard or in front of the sisal post.

How long have you had the cat? It took me many months to make any sort of progress, (on edit, I think it took around six months) and they ruined a lovely upholstered ottoman in the process. I was beyond pissed. Also, any new item I brought into the home I had to start all over again. Oh, and if I moved. For some reason that reset everything.

As to how to deal with the anger and frustration: Do you like this cat? Does she offer you good companionship, sit on your lap and purrs, brings you joy and all that jazz? If so, continue putting in the effort, know that sometimes it takes forever, but change can happen. If this cat isn't working for you or your household after some effort on your part, work with the shelter to find her a more suitable home. I know some folks may balk at this suggestion, but animals are a lifetime gig, and if it's not working for you all, best to find a new home for her while she's still young and adoptable.
posted by vivzan at 5:42 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

How long has this been going on?

My partner and I adopted a kitten in May and almost immediately bought her a cat tower. Which she proceeded to have no interest in, for months. Then one day we looked over and she was perched on top of the cat tower. Now she uses it regularly.

For scratching, Nthing trying several different types of scratching things. Our older cat really loves to scratch this $3 jute door mat we bought at IKEA, but has no interest in the jute rope legs of the expensive cat tower.

I'll also second punishment via spray bottle if you're serious about verging on returning her to the shelter.
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 PM on September 15, 2016

Just ordered some Feliway spray and a new, sturdy, sisal scratch post.

In response to vivzan, I suppose the other relevant part of this is that 95% of the time I try to pet her, she tries to grab me to bite me. It feels like I'm in a constant feud with the cat.

She's been with us for 2.5 weeks.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:01 PM on September 15, 2016

So, I have had cats all my life and my feelings about their behaviour is pretty permissive. When I had a cat that wanted to scratch the couch, (and I had another who was a vomiter) I just made a fleece couch cover that I could wash as I needed and they could scratch to their hearts content.

In addition to toys aimed at scratching, toys that just flat out eat up a lot of energy (the two kittens I have now *love* a squeaky mouse on a string that you can hang from a door) might help.

When she grabs you to bite, is she biting hard or playfully? She might just need to playfight a bit.
posted by Kurichina at 6:27 PM on September 15, 2016

Cats often do better with a buddy. If she's just very feisty another cat to wrestle with might help.
posted by bleep at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

The biting is a playing thing. When my cat was younger I'd put two-three heavy socks on my hands and wrestle with him so he could bite. He also loves being put inside an upside-down laundry basket with holes and then grabbing at strings or toys through the holes. Cats also enjoy when you stalk them by peeking around something and ducking back; almost any cat will run to chase you if you do that. Be prepared for flying leaps/claws though. Have a toy handy.

We got our cat a heavy cat tree that he likes, and put it next to the window so he could see out--this made him like it more, and now he scratches and rests there, it's his own spot.

Also, as you're in an apartment, you could make more space for him by giving him "trails" that let him get up high---we put up shelves that were stairstepped cubes next to an unused fireplace mantel in one place, so we could store stuff but the cat could get up high when she wanted to. If he's getting a cat tree, then maybe have a way he can jump from there to a safe surface, like an unused bookcase top. Some people put in cat walks all around the tops of their walls but that's an investment you might not be ready for.

You'll figure it out.

I will say that you may need to find a permanent cover for the leather because for some cats leather is just too irresistible and of course shreds easier than a cloth surface.
posted by emjaybee at 6:39 PM on September 15, 2016

2.5 weeks? Give her more time to settle in. Adjusting to a new home is tough!

It's definitely possible that a lot of the hostile and bitey behavior is because she doesn't feel comfortable in her new home or around you.

To compare with my cats:

My partner's adult cat has only just now started to come to me for affection after almost a year of sharing a home.

Our kitten took to us very quickly, because, well, kitten, but even so, it took about a month to teach her not to hurt us.

We also fostered a young adult cat for a short time who didn't like to be pet at all.
posted by Sara C. at 6:42 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some cats are just like this. I would definitely consider the caps quite seriously, because cat behavior is sometimes just impossible to modify.

Having said that, the very best way to weigh something down is to invest in some $2 concrete pavers from Home Depot. Or, if you've got a source for free marble seconds, that works too. Basically, what you want is rocks. Especially if you end up with a 20lb kitty who thinks he can fly.
posted by SMPA at 6:45 PM on September 15, 2016

Being in an EXTREMELY stressful environment (the shelter) after having been a pet in someone's home is an earth-shatteringly difficult experience for a cat. Cats are extremely territorial creatures who thrive on routine and habit. When they're removed from a familiar environment, they become very fearful and timid.

After only 2.5 weeks with you, the cat is still in full-on panic mode. She doesn't trust you yet, and she's scared. She's also--bear with me here--just getting over the sleep deprivation she had in the shelter. She was basically in fight-or-flight mode the whole time she was there. She is worn out. That's why she tries to bite you. She's not ready to be touched yet. Every time you try, it reinforces her idea that you're something to be feared.

I feel like you need to back waaaaaaay up and restart the process of integrating her into your home again; it might have happened too fast for her. If it's possible for you to confine her to one room (ideally the room she chooses to sleep in now, as it's where she'll feel the most safe), do that. Put her scratching stuff in there. Spend a few hours a day in there, not all at the same time, just sitting there. Read your email out loud to her, talk to her, engage her in play, and don't try to touch her. At most, offer her your hand to smell. If she withdraws from you when you approach her, you're going too fast.

Meanwhile, if you can, wash the furniture with Nature's Miracle. Scratching is one of the ways cats mark the boundaries of their territory, and they have scent glands in their paw pads. Removing those scent marks while the furniture is out of her reach can help make them less enticing to scratch on.

When she starts to look eager to interact with you every time you enter the room, give her a bit more access to the house. Little by little she'll start to trust you and look forward to getting pets, and she'll be more responsive to your cues about acceptable behavior.

I volunteer for a cat rescue that focuses on shy and under-socialized cats. It takes much longer than I ever could have anticipated to help a scared cat calm down again. It would be well within the range of normal for it to take six months before you can pet her.
posted by jesourie at 6:48 PM on September 15, 2016 [25 favorites]

The furniture is huge, like a tree would be, and doesn't move when she scratches it. She can sink her claws in and pull and push and stretch and not worry about it falling over or moving; it's secure and lets her really put her weight into it. She can also jump on it, and it's usually clean and near you.

So, I am going to seriously recommend something like this large cat structure. I know it's huge, and doesn't go with anyone's decor, but if it's nice and clean when you bring it home (cats are attracted to clean stuff - just put a clean towel on your bed or sofa and she'll probably sit right on it), she's pretty much guaranteed to go straight to it and have a big ol' scratch.

Also, having a substantial place of her own would probably help her de-stress.

I would probably put the leather chair in a room or place where people _don't_ usually go, maybe behind a closed door (or maybe not); the cat is probably going to want to hang out with you guys, and if he chair is where you are, it's going to be more attractive. This is no guarantee that she'll never scratch it, but it might make it less attractive.

The nubbly fabric furniture I'd probably cover with something - large blanket/comforter/coverlet, slipcover - just to preserve it while the whole cat behavior thing settles down. At least if the furniture is protected, you can have a chance to interact with the cat without worrying about it.

I hear you about the anger. Believe me, I understand. You just have to realize that she's doing what she thinks is right, it's not directed at you, and make the environment cat-proof for now. Move the vulnerable furniture into a closed room, cover it, whatever you have to do. Do it ASAP so you can relax.

If you've got off on the wrong foot with her -- if you've been angry enough that she's noticed -- give her a couple of days of you being non-stressed before you start really approaching her for petting. Play, yes, always, and talk to her, but don't get into her space until she's had a chance to observe you being predictable and calm for a while.

Also, the ankle biting might not be "revenge"; it's probably motivated by anxiety or a need for territory or something.

You might get benefit from Jackson Galaxy's books and videos. I don't think he's always right, but it sounds like the things he focuses on (problem solving, environment, stress) might mesh with what's going on here.
posted by amtho at 6:52 PM on September 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Huge cat tower on Craigslist in your area for $60 - I meant to link to this in the answer above, hence my mentioning it needed to be clean. Not "sterilized", just relatively clean. Also make sure the previous cat doesn't have health issues, of course.
posted by amtho at 6:57 PM on September 15, 2016

Bumpy woven fabric is great for cats to scratch! Which, er, is the problem. I switched to microfiber for just that reason--you want a tight weave that Iris can't get her claws into.

Nthing that the biting and scratching is more of an anxiety reaction than anything else, and that she needs to have a calm space for a while so that she can get accustomed to you. When I'm socializing cats, I give them their own room and periodically drop in to visit, but without taking the initiative on interaction (I bring a book to read or something of the sort). If the cat becomes overstimulated, I just leave the room. Feliway can also be a big help.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:59 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also: you're doing this cat no favors by keeping her if you feel nothing but resentment and anger towards her. It is OK to return her! Helping de-stress a freaked out cat is not everyone's cup of tea.

It sounds like the shelter didn't really give you a good idea of what to expect out of the first couple of weeks, nor a good plan for how to integrate her into your home. I'm sorry they didn't set you up for success.

If you do decide to return her and find yourself looking for a cat in the future, the words you want to use to describe your ideal cat are "confident," "people-oriented," "social," and "receptive to touch."
posted by jesourie at 7:02 PM on September 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

With regards to establishing a friendlier relationship with the cat, perhaps you can try what I did with my first cat, who was very scared and timid and hid behind the toilet for 3 months hissing at me. It was a great way to establish trust and helped him to associate me with good things. I was ready to throw in the towel, but this technique really warmed him to me and he's a total gentle lapcat now.

I would sit cross-legged on the floor with a jar of chicken baby food and would spoon some out with a small spoon. I would hold it out in front of me and for the first couple of times, he wouldn't come over. Eventually he did and I would just hold the spoon out away from me while he ate it. Over a period of time, I'd bring the spoon closer and closer to me and he'd follow and I would pet him while he was eating. Sometimes he's run away when I tried to pet him, but over time, he didn't. I got to the point where I'd hold the spoon over my lap and he'd come and eat off the spoon from my lap. And then we reached a point where he would just sit on my lap right away, eat some baby food, and hang out for the petting.

This might be worth trying because it's really hard to grab and bite you if she's eating. Then she can enjoy your petting and realize how great it is. Hope this helps.
posted by vivzan at 7:49 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

there are such things as cats who are smart enough to connect their behavior with your angry reaction but who -- I don't know how else to say it -- get off on it. that or they just love attention so much that any is good. My cat will scratch my expensive musical instrument if and only if I leave it out when I'm in the room, but never when I'm not there, because the yelling is what she likes. I experimented with a spray bottle once or twice but when she started squinching her eyes shut and edging towards me expectantly when I reached for it, I had to stop.

point is, maybe your cat is not one of these freaks and just needs time, but it's possible she thinks this whole vicious cycle of her scratching and you yelling is just a fun game you play together. Do try a water-filled spray bottle instead of picking her up and moving her, just in case it works. at least she can't bite the water.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:52 PM on September 15, 2016

Baby food is a great high value treat! We use it at the cat rescue I volunteer for all the time. Just read the ingredients closely to be sure it contains no onion--in even very small amounts, onions are extremely toxic to cats.
posted by jesourie at 8:16 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry, your scratching posts suck. We have two of these, which are great for my cat who loves vertical scratching. They're weighted on the bottom, and if you put them next to your desk or sofa, they are the proper height for kitty to hang out on them instead of on your keyboard or sofa back. Put it directly next to whatever surface she's scratching and vigorously rub good catnip all over it. I recommend this stuff.

Also recommend that you watch some of Jackson Galaxy's My Cat from Hell, which will help you gain understanding of why cats do these maddening things. Thinking like a cat really helps troubleshoot cat problems.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:15 PM on September 15, 2016

I adopted two kittens (after having had only declawed cats) from a shelter that made me promise to keep the fully clawed, which we have done. The clawing has not been too bad a problem, but I have invested in several scratching posts. Actually the items they prefer are made of corrugated cardboard glued so they claw the rough edges. I invested about $50.00 each on two footstool-size scratchers, purchased on line and on sale. That was three years ago, and the scratchers show some wear but they scratch multiple times a day and the scratchers are still in pretty good shape. One is placed at the bottom of a flight of stairs, and they habitually jump from the steps to the scratching block when descending the stairs many times a day. We also have several smaller scratchers, some cardboard and some sisal, placed in additional rooms which they visit almost perfunctorily. but they do spend a ritual few seconds scratching when in the vicinity. The hefty cardboard ones are their anchors, the other ones additional but probably not essential. However, we were advised to have multiple scratching posts available, and it seems to have worked. The furniture is rarely their target, though occasionally I do catch them at it. I pick the offender up and place him or her on the closest cardboard colossus.

I do have difficulty clipping their nails. You'd think I was castrating the male . . . I have to catch him in a deep sleep to clip a claw or two. It's an endless cycle.
posted by citygirl at 11:08 PM on September 15, 2016

We accidentally found the cat's ideal scratching post when we bought a cheapie storage ottoman (similar but nicer) for the front door area. It's against a wall , so she can really put her whole body into clawing at it. She looks a bit like she's wrestling with it, her back legs are braced while she just rips into it with her front claws.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:26 AM on September 16, 2016

2.5 weeks is not that long. I think you are doing the right things. It will probably take closer to 1-2 months for her to get used to her new home and I'm sure the stress is a big factor in this behaviour so the Feliway is a good call, maybe you can spray some on the scratching post as well.

I got our Molly trained to use her post by placing a treat right at the top of the post (ie not at the base) so she had to stretch and reach to get to it and place her paws right on it. There was definitely a miraculous moment where we were sure she started spontaneously scratching the post and looking at us directly, expecting a treat. But this was not 2 weeks in! I think probably more like a month. 3 years later, we still coo over her and get a treat for her if we catch her scratching the post. She still sometimes scratches the couch leg or a chair, but we quickly give a loud "NO!" and a clap to stop her in her tracks.
posted by like_neon at 1:40 AM on September 16, 2016

Just catching up on some comments re: the scratching post. I had to upgrade our scratching post because I've learned that Molly is a vertical scratcher and our first post was too short. I think that is one of the appeals of the couch leg because it's comparatively tall and it really lets her stretch out. So if it seems like she's that type, make sure the post is adequately tall, ie similar height to your couch leg.
posted by like_neon at 1:43 AM on September 16, 2016

Just want to chime in on agreement that a good sturdy cat tree/scratching post will probably solve your furniture problem. And that watching "My Cat From Hell" will give you lots of insight. Also, for feliway, I've found the plug-in diffuser (or the collar) to be more effective than the spray bottle.

-covering the favorite areas in duct tape and aluminium foil

There's a clear double-sided tape made for anti-scratching, Sticky Paws, that will be much kinder to your furniture than duct tape - doesn't leave a ton of gunky residue behind when you remove it.

I suppose the other relevant part of this is that 95% of the time I try to pet her, she tries to grab me to bite me. It feels like I'm in a constant feud with the cat.

You are probably trying to pet her 90% too often. Her previous owners may have failed at teaching the "hands are not for playing with" rule. Or she's still freaked out from being at a shelter where hands were a source of negative things (being picked up and put in and out of cages, being examined/treated by vets, etc.) The best thing you can do is to let the cat be in charge of the petting. Wait until she approaches you, don't go to her. If she seems calm, present your fist and let her rub her face against it. If it goes well, eventually you can open you hand and start petting more of the head, but wait until you've had some successful sessions that are ended by the cat. And watch out for signs of overstimulation, some cats go from contented to done very quickly.

Fo how to tell if your cat is calm, do the 'blink test.' Cats being predators, they can get freaked out at being stared at, since it's what predators do to prey. If you make eye contact with your cat, do a slow blink. Close your eyes for a few seconds, open slightly slowly, repeat - see if your cat will do the same. It's a non-verbal communication where you are telling each other "Hello, fellow predator, I feel safe enough to close my eyes in front of you because neither of us is prey".

Hang in there - 2.5 weeks is so short in new-cat time, a lot can change once they get settled in.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:56 AM on September 16, 2016

I have the Pioneer cat scratch post and it is great. Our cat sometimes like to just climb up on top and it also the one place where she gets to knock things off the top of it (kitty cannot abide!).

It took about 2.5 years for her to loosen and wreck the sisal around the top of it. That was with daily stretching clawing. I just took it apart and flipped the sisal covered part over and put it back together so the damaged part is now at the bottom.

I'd put it in the top 5 of things we have bought her (and we have bought stupid amounts of stuff!).

Just for the hell of it - here is my cat recommendations for toys/stuff -

Other best purchases:
The Refined Feline Lotus Cat Tower. The high perch really matters. This where she prefers to sleep. It's pricy but our apartment is small and we have to see it all the time so we wanted something that looked halfway decent.
Ripple Rug (simple idea but she actually begs for us to play with her in this thing)
Go Cat Teaser Cat Catcher Wand Cat Toy She loves this and unlike all the other versions she can't eat the string (because it is wire). We've bought three because she chews the sticks and a couple of replacement packs of mice as well because she licks all the straw like hair off of them eventually. This is probably her favorite thing in the whole world. We put away when we are not home or sleeping (strangulation/tangling hazard but the only thing she has ever done is tied our shower curtain up with it) and when we get home/wake up she begs for use to take it out for her. I also put hockey tape (you can take the Canadian out of Canada but you can't take Canada out of the Canadian) over the rubbery plastic bits at the ends of the want to protect them from chewing.
Wireless Laser Presentation pointer. Cat laser pointers are generally weak and hard to press the button on. Presentation pointers are more expensive but more comfortable, last longer and are much brighter.

Other things she loves: Practice golf balls with holes in them (I widen one hole and put treats in the ball), Ping pong balls, and the best of all - Chestnuts. She goes crazy chasing chestnuts all over the floor because they make noise, are shiny and they are very unpredictable. The hard plastic bands that are used for bundling newspapers, magazines and flyers. She loves to fight with them and chew them when she catches them but she can't/doesn't actually eat it.

Things that were a waste of money:
Any cat wand with a string or elastic. They last about one minute if you don't watch it. If your cat can get their claws into the string or the toy the pursuit game is over too fast.
Robot toys. Our cat was amused by all of the ones we tried for about 5 minutes each. Then it was boredom and disinterest.
Catnip. Our cat just doesn't care.
Small stuffed animals, sisal mice and stuff like that. She used to carry a beanie baby around at first (and socks too) but stopped that behavior entirely. Now she drags the Go Cat teaser around.
Mylar balls - she likes them but she shreds and eats them. That can't be good.

It's hard work entertaining a cat!
posted by srboisvert at 6:49 AM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, my cat loves this scratcher. There's something she finds satisfying about facing down the incline and scratching.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2016

I hope you read all the way down to my post!

The only thing my beloved Siamese would scratch (besides expensive furniture, naturally), was Log. Yes, Log. A heavy, sturdy, bark-covered limb, about 2.5' long and maybe 4-5" inches around. Log was propped sturdily in a corner, so she could reach up, stretch out, and really put her weight into it. When the desirable bark was finally all scratched off, usually after a year or two, I went out into the wilds and retrieved ... Another Log.

It's Log, it's Log, oh what a wonderful toy. It's Log, it's Log, it's fun for a girl or a boy.

Ask your kitty if Log is right for her.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:25 PM on September 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just use the silly nail covers.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:05 PM on September 17, 2016

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